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Radio Provincial Journey, Lisburn on Air


LISBURN ON AIR Father and Son Start Programme HISTORY OF THE TOWN


FIRST-CLASS ENTERTAINMENT. (By courtesy of the B.B.C.)

By permission of the British Broadcasting Corporation we are permitted to reproduce this week some extracts from the items used in the programme "provincial Journey" on Wednesday, which was broadcast from the Assembly Rooms, and concerned the town and its history.

It is generally conceded that the broadcast from Lisburn was amongst the best done in this series. The large number of listeners thoroughly enjoyed the programme, and it is safe to say that very few sets were idle in Lisburn from 8-15 to 9 o'clock last Wednesday.



The programme commenced with a speech from Mr. J. D. Barbour, J.P., the chairman of the Lisburn Urban Council. He said he was sorry he was not at home to introduce the programme, but he had that day seen his old University win the Boat Race, after many years, and it was a great consolation. It was quite a simple thing to-day to speak to Lisburn from London, and he was going to take them back to the beginning of Lisburn's history.

Lisburn's name was originally Lisnagarvey, and that name was derived from two words: "lisna carrowes," which meant the fort of the gambler, so they would see that from the very beginning of its history Lisburn was a really sporting town, and he was glad to say, still was. It was originally ruled by one of the Princes of Tyrone and during Queen Elizabeth's reign there was considerable feeling between the Government in London and the Princes of Tyrone. Shane O'Neill, who ruled the district, refused to accept an earldom from the English Queen, saying that by blood and birth he was above such things as English titles.

With the passage of the years, Lisnagarvey settled down peacefully to carry on' industry and commerce. In 1609 Sir Fluke Conway came to Lisburn, and through his energy the streets of the town were planned, and the place better managed. 'Lisnagarvey was on the main road from'' Carrickfergus, which was then the port of Ulster, to Dublin, and saw many a battle and siege. Shortly after that time Jeremy Taylor, the great bishop, came to Lisnagrvey to pass the closing years of his life. During a long and exciting career, during which he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for Supporting the Royal cause, he finally saw the restoration of King Charles II, and under him was appointed to see of Down and Connor, and later on administered the see of Dromore. He had a house built at Magheraleave, a suburb of Lisburn, and in this house he died He got his fatal illness when going to visit a poor parishioner, and died peacefully to that suburb of Lisburn. Charles II raised the parish church in Lisburn to the Cathedral of Connor, as an appreciation of the loyalty of the inhabitants of Lisburn. Loyalty was a well-known characteristic of Lisburn, and was most enthusiastically maintained even to this day.

After the Edict of Nantes, many Huguenots came to Lisburn, bringing with them their skill as weavers, and great progress was made in the weaving of linen cloth, the weavers of the town originally making damask cloth for Buckingham Palace. In 1884 Sir Richard Wallace presented a public park to the town. Today Lisburn was the principal inland town in the North of Ireland, blessed with two very fine parks, ' extensive markets and clean streets. It was the home of several flourishing industries. whose products reached the four corners of the earth. They had also a wealth of artistic talent, which would be heard in that programme, and which he hoped listeners would thoroughly enjoy.


There were two selections by the Lisburn Choral and Orchestral Society, under the direction of Mr. T. J. H. Kerr, the conductor. These were the chorus to the entrance of the Quakers, from "The Quaker Girl," and another double chorus from the same musical comedy. Both sounded very well over the air.

Mr. H. A. M. Barbour then spoke. He said that Lisburn as a town owed its - foundation to Sir Fluke Conway, to whom the district was granted about 1609, and its prosperity to the establishment of the linen trade in 1698 by Louis Crommellin, a French Huguenot; refugee who was appointed by William III to organise the entire linen industry. The town was twice destroyed, first in the war of 1641, when, however, the Irish Army was defeated, and the second time in 1707, by an accidental fire, when the Castle, the Church, and the whole town were reduced -to ashes

Lisburn could point with pride to invaluable contributions towards the maintenance of the British Empire by her sons.

In the centre of the town stood a memorial to Brigadier-General John Nicholson, who played an heroic part in the Indian Mutiny. His name was better known in parts of India than in this country, but in Lisburn they never forgot his name or fame. A memorial tablet to him was in the Lisburn Cathedral.

After reading the wording on the tablet, Mr. Barbour went on to say that another name of which Lisburn was proud was that of A. T. Stewart. Mr. Stewart emigrated to America, and proved one of the many instances which went to show that Lisburn men could meet and hold their own with world-wide competition. But it was not so much on account of Mr. Stewart's brilliant commercial success that his name was held in respect in Lisburn. His success in New York was phenomenal, but that did not render him forgetful of his native country. As a result of the cotton industry being depressed in America in 1863, the industry at home came to a standstill, and the spectre of starvation threatened the district. Mr. Stewart chartered a ship and filled it with provisions to the value of six thousand pounds and dispatched it across the Atlantic to relieve the starving poor of his native town. The ship on her return journey to America carried 120 emigrants.

Always a highly cultured centre, Lisburn regarded with pride the wonder actor, W. H. Betty, to see whom Pitt adjourned the Imperial House of Commons.

As a manufacturing centre, Lisburn presented a very interesting feature. Them was none of the soulless co-operation in the heads of the manufacturing firms. They lived in or near the town, and so employer and employee knew each other. and that had resulted in the very happy , relationship which existed between the two. While the people of Lisburn formed a most law-abiding community, they had a strong sense of independence, which they might have inherited from Shane O'Neill, of whom it was reported that when the Queen's deputy asked him to visit him Shane refused to move, and suggested if the Queen's deputy wanted to see the O'Neill, it was the duty of the deputy to come to the O'Neill, rather than the O'Neill should go to the deputy.

Miss Joy Simpson, L.G.S.M., sang with fervour and much appeal: "That Little Town in the Old County Down."



The commentator was then heard to say, "You have heard something about the history of Lisburn. Let us come to what might be termed the less serious side, and drop in on a chat between Mr. Thomas M. Harvey and another well-known Lisburn resident.

The Resident-Well, Tom, where are we going to start?

Mr. Harvey---I don't know, there are so many things to talk about. Of course, we can't hope to cover all the sides of the social life in Lisburn over the past forty years. I don't know about your memory, but I am quite sure mine couldn't cope with it.

The Resident---Oh, there have been plenty of stirring times here, all right.

Mr. Harvey--Oh, yes. I suppose you would hardly remember the celebrations for the Queen Victoria Jubilee?

The Resident---What, in 1887? Oh, no, I cannot go back as far as that.

Mr. Harvey-There was an amusing incident which has fixed-it in most people's minds. As you know, a famous linen firm in the town wove a lot of linens for Buckingham Palace, and they put a spinning wheel on the roof of their building.

The Resident---.A working one?

Mr Harvey-Well it. was supposed to work. it was put up by "Whizzer" M`Nally. I believe lie was called that because he had invented some patent machine. Well. anyhow, to cut a long story short, when he was on the roof fixing this up he quarrelled with another workman, and they fell together and rolled down the roof and were only saved by the parapet at the bottom.

The Resident-I should think there would be a good many people about that day.

Mr. Harvey---Oh, ,yes. In those days, too, the Assembly Rooms, from which we are speaking, was then the Market House and it had weigh-bridges beside it. The old-clothes women used to come and set up stalls all round the building. Indeed, there were stalls for all sorts of things, including meat and vegetables.

The Resident--Wasn't it rebuilt by Sir Richard Wallace and presented to the town?

Mr. Harvey-Yes. Sir Richard was a great benefactor to Lisburn.

The Resident--I suppose from the name that the Wallace Park is called after him.

Mr. Harvey--Yes; he presented it to the town. Curiously enough, the cricket ground, which is situated in the middle of the park, doesn't belong to the town, but is privately owned by the club.

The Resident--Do you remember the cricket club in the old days-- --I mean when they used to play in tall hats and beards?

Mr. Harvey--Certainly not. If they ever did play in beards and tall hats in Lisburn, it must have been before my time.

Mr. Harvey---By the way, talking of beards: did you ever hear the legend of Piper's Hill, one of the oldest streets in, the town?

The Resident-I always regard most of what I hear as legendary, but what has Piper's Hill to do with beards?

Mr. Harvey--There was once a bearded piper who made a bet of a guinea that he would play up and down that, street for six hours without stopping. He collapsed and died Just after five hours. and instead of . claiming the guinea from his executors the street was named after him.

The Resident--He must have been a Scots piper. If it had been two guineas he would have stuck it out, collapse or no collapse; but I always heard the street was called Piper's Hill because a piper was beheaded there during the rebellion in 1641 and his head stuck on a pike on the Market. House, and ever since he is supposed to go up and down the street on winter nights playing.

Mr. Harvey-"With his head tucked underneath his arm," I suppose? No. I don't think yours is the proper version.

The Resident-Well, what about sport? You're a football fan, aren't you, if I remember?

Mr. Harvey--I am a follower of the nonhandling code.

The Resident-My dear Watson--Harvey I mean, in the end it comes to much the same thing, doesn't it?

Mr. Harvey--Except that I deplore the use of such words as "fan." but I was the treasurer of the old Wesley Football Club. We won the Steele & Sons Cup once. That was a great day if you like. Our share of the gate was two pounds. We might say we discovered Willie Scott. a former international goal-keeper, the brother of Elisha Scott. He went from us to Linfield, and from Linfield to Everton

The Resident--'Are must not forget to say something about the Newsroom before we finish. It has been in existence for over a hundred years now. Wasn't it a fact that when there were very few newspapers coming into Lisburn they were brought to the Newsroom from Belfast on horse back, and people gathered round and got someone. I think, it was ...

Mr. Harvey "Tuppenny" Lynas you mean. He used to have a shop -in Bow Street.

The Resident-Yes. He used to be called in to read out aloud to them. It is told of him that at the time of the Crimean War when they had a lot of Russian names in the news, whenever he came to one of these names he would substitute the name "Lambeg" for it. I wonder if that is the origin of the custom that is so common to use "Lambeg" for a word you cannot pronounce.

Mr. Harvey--I don't know. Strange how things like that are handed down although times change.

Mrs. Clarke tastefully - rendered the beautiful song, "'Tis pretty to be in Ballinderry," and Miss K. Allan, with her usual efficiency in elocution, recited two poems, "The Song of the Spinning Wheel," by William M'Comb, and "Rejoice, Killultagh!" an excerpt from a poem written in 1803 by John Moore Johnston.



After this there was a conversation between the commentator and Mr. George King, who has been a damask weaver at a hand loom in Lisburn for over fifty years.

He explained the intricacies of his trade, and explained that he had made damask cloth for the Royal household.

Mrs. Meta Hickey choicely rendered "Fairy Tales of Ireland."

Mr. Dick Hanna, Lagan lock-keeper, was then brought to the microphone, and in answer to questions put by the commentator, said that the canal from Belfast to Lough Neagh was 27 miles long, with 27 locks. There was not, however, a lock to each mile because at, some places there were three or four locks together and a long stretch then to the next. His job was to see that the levels were right, and he then went on to explain his work and how the locks worked.

The Commentator--How long have you been at it?

Mr. Hanna--Fifty years, and my father before me.

The Commentator--How long does it take to travel the whole distance from Belfast to Lough Neagh?

Mr. Hanna-An 80 or 90 ton barge would take two full days.

The Commentator-How many people have you rescued?

Mr. Hanna-Now you've asked me a hard one. I have saved that many I could hardly tell you. Years ago some fell in every day, but the people seemed to have grown wiser these last few years.



Mr. John Alister, late stationmaster of Lisburn, was next at the microphone. The commentator announced him by saying that he had completed fifty years on the railway.

The Commentator--You must have been very young when you started in the service?

Mr. Alister--I was only 17. I started as a junior clerk in Monaghan in 1886. In those days it was known as the Ulster Railway.

The Commentator--You visited a, number of towns before you came to Lisburn, I suppose?

Mr. Alister---Yes, I was in several towns and was in Newtownstewart before coming to Lisburn in 1913.

Asked about railway travel in the old days, Mr. Alister said the coaches were not nearly so comfortable fifty years ago when compared with to-day. In those days in the third class the seats were a wooden board and there was no heat, In the first and second class there were cushions, and heat was received from foot warmers. The carriages were lighted with paraffin oil lamps. The service offered was sufficient for normal traffic, but on occasions like 12th July the people had to ride in open trucks. He recalled the people having to duck their heads as they passed under the bridges when riding in those high open trucks.

The Commentator-What about accidents.

Mr. Alister-During the 24 years I was stationmaster of Lisburn, over a million trains passed through my hands, and we didn't have a single accident.

Lisburn is a very important station (he went on in answer to another query), and about 120 trains pass through it every day. It is the key station to Belfast.

The Commentator---That must require a pretty intricate signalling system?

Mr. Alister--Yes. Lisburn's is one of the most up-to-date signalling cabins in the North of Ireland.

The announcer then stated that that brought their "Provincial Journey" to a close, and he could think of no better way to conclude than to broadcast peals of the curfew ringing in Lisburn, which was rung each evening at nine o'clock, and had been for many years now.

In this manner, then, the pleasant programme concluded.

The Commentator in above Broadcast was Raymond Glendenning.